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These 2 images are offensive.

Do you think so? Facebook does. They recently censored it, along with some other images of breasts that appeared on photographer Gemma Rose Turnbull’s fan page (which has since been removed by FB altogether). The images were all part of an on-going project Gemma has been photographing and exhibiting for five years.

The interesting part is that some of the images that WEREN’T censored at first were those shots of breasts in a sexual context. Along with this image of her nephew breastfeeding  was the picture below of the photographer in front of a photo she took of her 84-year-old grandmother’s saggy naked bosoms.

Gemma wrote to me….

I got censored. To be honest I was expecting it to happen. I have a fan page for Show Us Ya Tits on Facebook called Show Us Ya Gazoongas (Tits is a no-no word on Facebook so I went with Gazoongas). It is just there to update people on my ongoing photography project about breasts, share breast related news stories and show a few pics.

And by few I mean like, five. Facebook has allegedly has a policy about not showing nudity in their images so I always knew at some point Facebook would remove me, or at least my images. It’s just that I thought they would remove all of my images.

So at first they they did remove pictures, but not as I expected. They only removed the image of me at the recent opening of my exhibition in Fremantle with my 84-year-old Grandmother’s saggy naked bosom in the background, and the image of my nephew breastfeeding (that in an ironic twist I had only uploaded to support a Facebook petition aimed at rectifying the censorship of breastfeeding images). They left the images of the Sexpo Showgirls and their enhanced breasts (below), the image of a wet t-shirt competition and the image of a recently augmented breast, floating in the light of the operating theatre.

So two things; Firstly I am totally stoked. Facebook has just proved that the series I have been photographing for the last five years has a valid point. And secondly I am totally angry that still, still, in 2010 mainstream media is dictating that as long as breasts are young, and shown in a sexual context then they are okay. If they are aged, practical or in any way outside the ‘normal’ standard then they are to be hidden away.

For me Show Us Ya Tits has been about trying to rectify some of that drivel we get fed about women’s bodies through mainstream media, by showing that women’s bodies are fantastic because of their differences. And the intention of the series, which I have been photographing and exhibiting for five years, is to make a difference to the relationships women have with their bodies. The work is comprised of portraits of women from an 11-year-old girl developing breasts and talking about their newfound currency in the classroom, to women with mastectomies, and again to my 84-year-old Grandmother’s saggy sunbaked bosom. As context to these portraits is my documentation of the situations in which breasts are displayed in popular culture –wet t-shirt competitions, augmentation operations, bra parties, and breastfeeding.

I started tentatively at first – unsure how to articulate my intent in such a way to entice to women to undress for me. So I dove in with the familiar, my friends and family, but have now interviewed more women than I can count (well than I have counted). The interest in the project has been overwhelming. Some women have flooded me with tales and some have given me stilted monosyllabic stories – though voluntary participation has become my first criteria. One woman told me she had been waiting for years to tell the story of her breast reduction, and that seeing herself on the gallery wall had made her feel, for the first time, that her scarred breasts were beautiful.

At this point I have to note that my work is not intended to be discriminatory. I think young, fake, perky, perfect breasts are totally beautiful. I think women who have those breasts should be celebrated as much as I think women who have lost breasts to mastectomy should be celebrated.

It’s like the thin vs. fat debate. Or if we want, the men vs. women debate. Just as I consider that calling myself a Feminist (which I proudly am) does not automatically make me a man hater, so too do I think that championing the need for all breasts to be given a fair viewing in the images we feed through our mainstream media does not mean I am against putting silicone in your chest. Thin is beautiful, plastic is beautiful.

But so too is fat and droopy. Those arguments that pit thin against fat, man against women are archaic; outdated and unnecessary. What I am arguing when I take photos of twins breastfeeding, or a woman with a mastectomy is that media feeds us a load of bullshit and it makes people sick. It makes women hate their bodies. It makes women waste their lives fighting a tide of self loathing because they are never shown what a spectrum of shapes and sizes we come in.

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UPDATE: Gemma’s  story continues – the images of the ‘sexpo’ breasts were also taken down by Facebook but there was a significant time delay between the non-sexual images being taken down (first) and the sexual ones (several days later). And then it all got worse.  According to Gemma

Basically it seems after I kicked up a stink about the fact they took down pictures of my nan and my nephew breastfeeding not the sexy sexpo showgirls ones they came and removed all the breasts pics. That was fine, at least they were applying the no nudity clause evenly.

Then yesterday they removed the whole fan page citing that it may be “hateful, threatening or obscene”. I have attached the warning. Seriously. I’m no longer violating their no nudity clause and they give no indication of how I can get the page reinstated. It’s such horrific feedback, telling people they are not allowed to have open dialogue about breasts. Gross.

This isn’t the first discussion we’ve had about breasts being more acceptible in a sexual context than a practical one and I’m sure it won’t be the last….

I think the images of her nephew and her grandmother are exquisite. Offensive? Oh lord no.

What do you think? Can you make any sense of Facebook’s policy?

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